Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The Peak Performance Project is a multi-year contest in which The Peak, along with Music BC, picks 20 BC musicians/bands a year and makes them stars. Past winners are We Are The City, Kyprios, and Current Swell with a ton of great bands and artists included as well.
Part one of the project was a rock & roll boot camp where they went on a week long retreat to get lectures and advice from industry pros to help them refine their craft. Phase two is a series of shows at The Red Room, four artists a night for five weeks, each playing a 45 minute set. The bands are rated by a panel of judges, which will go toward their final score in the project, and they've also been tasked to learn a "Classic Canadian Cover" to play during their set. I always love hearing bands play cover songs, and I am definitely looking forward to see who each act chooses (and, as in the past, I am going to keep a running tally on how many Arcade Fire, Neil Young or Leonard Cohen songs we get).
For both the first and second showcases, the sound at the Red Room hadn't been the greatest, but for this night it was very OFF. It was through no fault of the bands; as I understand it, the mixing board fried before the show, so there was a scramble to get things up and running. But it still took a little away from the whole night. For one thing, a lot of the banter or talking between songs was either too loud or muffled (or somehow both), and there were feedback problems the whole night.
Alexandria Maillot: One of this year's returning artists, Alexandria was in the first year of the Project, but wasn't eligible to return until now due to age restrictions (which were not in place the first year). She has an amazingly strong and soulful voice with a sound that bounced from poppy to soulful with a hint of folk at times. Her cover was "The Weight" from The Band, which was not a bold choice, but she covered it well.
She ended with what was my favourite of the set, the song featured on The Peak "Take Me Home", a jaunty and upbeat piano driven tune.
She has a great talent, but is still young, and I think she just needs to "finds her sound" so to speak.
Dear Rouge: With canned music and red lights bathing the stage, the duo of Danielle and Drew McTaggart came out with their band and launched into an electronic-tinged pop-rock set. It was very dancey and high energy, with Danielle hardly staying still, dancing up a storm while singing.
Their cover was another familiar choice with The Guess Who's "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature", a perfectly good cover, even though the harmonies didn't really come across. Part way through the set, most of the band left except for Danielle who was then joined by Indiana Avent on violin for a slower, acoustic song, which was good but felt wildly out of place in the set.
The band is still pretty new, and I think they have the most untapped potential out of everyone I've seen so far. With a bit more experience I have no doubt that they could win the competition... if they reapply next year.
(And, on a purely superficial note, I think they could have picked a better name. "Dear Rouge" looks nice on paper, but just sounds awkward when said aloud. It doesn't roll off the tongue, coming out more like "Deer Ooge")
Facts: Next up was the groovy synthy pop of Facts. They took the stage wearing matching white and the lights went down for a crazy light show, lasers beaming out into the crowd. They were also joined by PPP veteran Garth Covernton (41st & Home) on drums. Right off the bat, I found the vocals were a bit overprocessed and muddy. Not sure if that was their sound, or due to the aforementioned audio problems, but that, combined with the similarity of the set, made it seem to drag a little towards the end; they were definitely not bad, but it got a bit repetitive.
For their cover they chose "Ice Cream" from Sarah McLachlan, though to be honest, I didn't even realise until after the set. I am not overly familiar with the song, and with the low VOCALS between songs I didn't hear its introduction. They also threw in a cover of Joanna Newsom's "Peach, Plum, Pear", and were joined at one point by Evan Konrad (aka Bed of Stars).
It wasn't a bad set by any means, but I got the impression that they could have done a lot better.
Maurice: Yet another returning act to the project, JP Maurice and company wrapped up the night. While the other three this night I didn't know too well, I was already a fan of Maurice's alt-pop sound, so I was looking forward to his set.
Starting with "Get Mad", JP wasted no time playing to the crowd, going right up to the edge of the stage. For the undeniably infectious "Mistake" he was joined by Stephanie Chatman on violin and his cover was "Woodstock" from yet another renowned Canadian, Joni Mitchell.
After his version of TLGLTP's "Robin" -- the catchiest song about a threesome you'll hear -- he brought out a few members of Tough Lovers and Evan Konrad was back out for their Bootcamp Co-Write song, "Night Eyes".
I don't know if it was the best set I've seen Maurice play -- the sound issues were probably a factor -- but JP is a fantastic songwriter, his songs, and live performances, always exuding raw emotion. And are damn catchy. I really hope he makes the top five, and won't be surprised if he does.